Cars

What You Need to Know About Buying a Classic Car

There are a lot of reasons to buy a classic car. Maybe you want to own the car you dreamed of driving when you were younger. You might be considering buying a classic car for your kid to restore with you. Or maybe you are interested in finding an old truck to restore and use for work or play.

Whatever the reason, half the people you know and three-quarters of those you live with will probably call you crazy. Regardless of whether it’s your family, your friends or just yourself that needs convincing, below are some things you should consider when buying a classic car.

Make a plan

There are a lot of “ways” to own a classic car. Before buying, it’s important to know just what you want out of the car. Do you want to own a vintage vehicle in mint condition and trailer it to car shows or an affordable restoration project that will take some work to get back on the road?    

This ClassicCars.com Journal article points out a few of the not-so-good reasons people often use to buy a classic car. For example, you might not want to buy a classic car if you don’t like working on mechanical things. Even if you expect to pay a professional to maintain your vintage vehicle, you should at least have a “willingness to learn” to appreciate the mechanical workings of your car.

There are mixed opinions on owning a classic car as an investment. Investopedia says it’s not impossible, but the models of cars that will appreciate with time require a hefty initial investment. If you are thinking of shopping for Ferraris at auctions, you are headed in the right direction.   

One unique option is to have a classic car rebuilt the way you want it. Icon4x4 Derelict project builds classic cars tailored to their customers’ needs. Want a VW Thing converted to electric? They will build it for you. 

Whatever your reason, make a plan and stick to it. Knowing what you intend to do with the car once you own it will help you determine what you need upfront to accomplish your goal. 

Build a budget

If you have a few million dollars burning a hole in your pocket, check out some of these possibilities that Automobile magazine reports were the most expensive classic cars sold at auction in 2018. Surprisingly, there are a lot of affordable options out there too. Knowing what your budget is will play a big role in defining your classic car purchase.  

How much do you want to pay upfront and how much do you set aside for maintenance and restoration costs later? In this Art of Manliness article, guest writer Mark Reid says spending more on a vehicle in good condition will save you money on costs down the road. He also mentions that first-time classic car buyers will benefit from purchasing a more popular or common car. Parts, service, and support for cars like the 1962-1980 MGB or the 1965-1970 Ford Mustangs will be easy to find.   

When you know which car you want to buy, take a look around. Nada guides will help determine the average retail value of the car you are interested in. Options for purchasing include auctions, dealers and private parties. If you want to own an American muscle car, there are a lot of options. But watch out for that to-good-to-be-true deal on a shell of a car that was left to die on some farm’s back forty.  

Don’t forget insurance. This State Farm Insurance article has some good thoughts on how to prepare for owning a classic car and includes information about their classic car insurance program.  

Prepare

Storage is one of the biggest considerations you will need to make. Where will you be keeping your classic car? You probably don’t want to park it at the curb. A temperature-controlled garage would be a good start. But a lot of us might be thinking about space in the driveway or yard. MotorTrend has some ideas about cool car covers.

In your head, working all day on your car project sounds fun, but will you have the time? No matter how perfect it seems when you buy it, it’s likely you will be working on the car once you have it. Before buying, consider when you will find the time to work on the car. Is it a weekend project? Will you be in the garage every night? 

Do your research on the vehicle beforehand. Just like with modern cars, classics will have known issues with different years, models and engine types. Many classic cars have enthusiast clubs that provide invaluable information about purchasing and owning specific cars.

Once you think you’ve found the one you are looking for, check it’s VIN. Is it a salvage title? How many owners has the car had? Using a classic car inspection service like Autotrader recommends will provide great information on the condition of the vehicle. 

Despite all of the work, money and time involved in owning a classic car, it’s unlikely that you are going to be talked out of it. That’s fine. Be prepared. Know what your plan is for this car. Budget accordingly. The people who are telling you that you are crazy may be right. That’s okay. There are lots of folks out there who are the same crazy as you.